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Houlton craft fair provides local alternatives to Black Friday

HOULTON, Maine — The 36th annual Holiday Craft Fair at the Gentle Memorial Building in Houlton drew another large crowd to the rec center this year as a wide variety of vendors showcased their wares.

The recreation center has traditionally hosted the fair, which has grown steadily from a couple dozen vendors in its first year to more than 60 booths the past few years. What started out as multiple craft fairs in the Shiretown held at various churches around the Thanksgiving weekend merged into one all-inclusive event in 1983.

Holiday crafts of all shapes and sizes were on display at the annual Houlton Craft Fair at the Gentle Memorial Building Friday and Saturday.
(Staff Photo/Joseph Cyr)

According to Recreation Director Marie Carmichael, officials opened the event to any vendors who wanted to have a table, and from there the fair has grown steadily each year. Crafters pay a table fee to reserve space with the proceeds benefiting the recreation center’s youth programs.

Sam Richardson, proprietor of “Goodnyou?” products said she has participated in the craft fair for numerous years because of the many local vendors it supports.

“This craft fair is a great display of a lot of local artists sharing their goods with a community that has always been very supportive of their efforts,” she said. “There is always a concern with the first day being ‘Black Friday,’ but I am seeing a shift in recent years of more folks coming on Fridays.”

Pam, left, and Amy Hocking get their booth ready for the annual Houlton Craft Fair at the Gentle Memorial Building Friday morning. The two-day craft event typically draws a large crowd for the holidays.
(Staff Photo/Joseph Cyr)

Richardson said she feels that the customer service provided by vendors at the craft fair exceeds that of the big box stores, which is something that more and more people are coming to respect.

Pam and Amy Hocking have also been vendors at the craft fair for the past nine years, with the majority of their proceeds benefiting cancer patients.

Nancy Wright, left, and Becky Miller were selling raffle tickets for quilts and more at Houlton’s annual Craft Fair at the Gentle Memorial Building Friday and Saturday.
(Staff Photo/Joseph Cyr)

“We keep coming back because we are raising money for Bridge to Hope and help people in our community who are battling cancer,” Amy Hocking said. “This is a way to use our hobbies and crafting skills as a way to give back to the community.”

Amy said they see a lot of the same faces each year, and have become friends with many of the other vendors.

“We really are just one big community,” she said. “We look forward to this event every year.” 

No holiday craft fair would be complete without plenty of fresh wreaths and other Christmas trimmings.
(Staff Photo/Joseph Cyr)

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